Kazakhstan constitution: Will changes bring democracy?

Authoritarian leaders usually seize more control – but Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has agreed to share some of his powers with parliament and the cabinet. Are the constitutional changes a real step towards democracy or could they be a political manoeuvre? informed bbc.com

What has changed?

The amendments proposed by Mr Nazarbayev and approved by parliament on Monday will give lawmakers more power, on paper. The cabinet will now report its main initiatives not just to the president but also to parliament.

Presidents will no longer be able to issue decrees that have the power of law. And parliament gets a greater say in appointing and sacking cabinet members, while the executive branch becomes more independent.

The president will no longer be able to override parliamentary votes of no-confidence in cabinet members.

“Upon my instructions, the cabinet prepared the bill that will delegate 35 responsibilities of the president to lower levels of government,” President Nazarbayev, who has been regularly criticised for persecuting opponents and violating human rights, told a joint session of parliament.

Under the changes he will no longer be able to suspend decisions taken by the prime minister and cabinet, so they will be fully responsible for implementing state programmes and policies.

Will this really strengthen democracy?

Although the changes seem to strengthen the system of checks and balances, and allow some mechanisms to limit the president’s power, many observers remain sceptical.

In the absence of a genuine opposition, the changes will be cosmetic, they say.

Dosym Satpayev, a political analyst based in Almaty, argues that if the government doesn’t allow real opposition to compete for power, then strengthening parliament will not advance democracy in the country since only pro-presidential parties will get seats after the elections.

Also, the amendments will keep the president as the “supreme arbitrator” who will serve as a power broker between different branches. He will keep his powers to appoint ministers of foreign affairs, defence and interior.

The role of the president as the “founder of independent Kazakhstan, the first president and the leader of the nation” will also be enshrined in the constitution.

So, many countries think that our new constitution will bring democracy.  Even, Venice at the 110th plenary session of the European Commission to examine the development of the amendments to the Constitution of the same general conclusion. The discussion of Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Latvia, attended by experts from Russia and Turkey. It’s worth noting that the meeting of the country was represented by Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Talgat Donakov, Chairman of the Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan Igor Rogov, chairman of the Union of lawyers Thanks Mukhashev.

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